In a knowledge-based economy, the generation and utilization of
knowledge contribute to a significant part in economic growth and wealth
creation. While the traditional factors of production, that is labour,
capital, raw materials and
entrepreneurship, remain important, knowledge will be the key factor driving growth, creating new value and providing the basis to remain competitive.
In fact, in the new world of K-economy, higher education is no longer a luxury but essential to national social and economic development. This is because participation in the knowledge economy requires a new set of human skills. People need to have higher qualifications and to be capable of greater intellectual independence.
If Malaysia is to meet the challenge to transform itself into a K-economy, the time has come for Malaysia to declare and recognise the right of every Malaysian to tertiary education!
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has recently sent out mixed messages about the “shock therapy” for bumiputra university students to ensure excellence and quality in public universities.
Since the seventies, the DAP had consistently advocated that the proper policy for university admissions is one of merit coupled with needs which would meet the twin objectives of ensuring that our institutions of higher learning maintain the highest academic excellence as well ensuring that the economically and socially disadvantaged would receive special preferential consideration in enjoying higher education opportunities.
The Malaysian reality has always been such that the main beneficiaries of the second policy component of needs would be the bumiputera students, although it would not be completely confined to them.
There is then the issue of meritocracy for academic appointments and promotions in the public universities, which has nothing to do whatsoever with the question of bumiputra student university admissions - but has everything do with maintaining excellence and quality in public universities, affecting both bumiputra and non-bumiputra students.
How can there be merit and excellence among our university students if merit and excellence are not the most important criteria for appointments and promotions for the academic staffs in all universities ?
Isn’t this the reason why Malaysian public universities had fared poorly in terms of educational excellence and quality when compared with other universities, whether in Asia or internationally?
If Malaysia is establish a quality higher-education system the envy of other nations and where academic excellence is the motto for all academicians and students, then the first thing he must do is to introduce merit as the most important criteria for all academic appointment and promotions, starting with the appointment of qualified non-Malay Vice Chancellors in the country.